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Lakoff: How to Rescue the American Dream from the GOP’s Nightmare

The Republicans are redefining “democracy”–but it’s time to remember what the real dream of democracy meant.

American democracy has, over our history, called upon citizens to share an equal responsibility to work together to secure a safe and prosperous future for their families and nation. This is the central work of our democracy and it is a public enterprise. This, the American Dream, is the dream of a functioning democracy.

Public refers to people, acting together to provide what we all depend on: roads and bridges, public buildings and parks, a system of education, a strong economic system, a system of law and order with a fair and effective judiciary, dams, sewers, and a power grid, agencies to monitor disease, weather, food safety, clean air and water, and on and on. That is what we, as a people who care about each other, have given to each other.

Only a free people can take up the necessary tasks, and only a people who trust and care for one another can get the job done. The American Dream is built upon mutual care and trust. Our tradition has not just been to share the tasks, but to share the tools as well. We come together to provide a quality education for our children. We come together to protect each other’s health and safety. We come together to build a strong, open and honest financial system. We come together to protect the institutions of democracy to guarantee that all who share in these responsibilities have an equal voice in deciding how they will be met. What this means is that there is no such thing as a “self-made” man or woman or business. No one makes it on their own. No matter how much wealth you amass, you depend on all the things the public has provided — roads, water, law enforcement, fire and disease protection, food safety, government research, and all the rest. The only question is whether you have paid your fair share for what we all have given you. We are now faced with a nontraditional, radical view of “democracy” coming from the Republican party. It says democracy means that nobody should care about anybody else, that democracy means only personal responsibility, not responsibility for anyone else, and it means no trust. If America accepts this radical view of democracy, then all that we have given each other in the past under traditional democracy will be lost: all that we have called public. Public roads and bridges: gone. Public schools: gone. Publicly funded police and firemen: gone. Safe food, air, and water: gone. Public health: gone. Everything that made America America, the crucial things that you and your family and your friends have taken for granted: gone. The democracy of care, shared responsibility and trust is the democracy of the American Dream. The democracy of no care, no shared responsibility, and no trust has produced the American Nightmare that so many of our citizens are living through. Nightmare it is, but there is no denying credit to Republicans for their skills at framing. The recent Republican “Contract from America,” for instance, begins with a statement of their moral principles. The recommendations are special cases of those principles. It is a strategic initiative. Instead of a laundry list, each recommendation is a special case of a general strategy — to defund our American government. Furthermore, they understand that about 20 percent of the electorate consists of people who are conservative in some ways and progressive in others. These are biconceptuals, sometimes referred to loosely by political professionals as “independents” or “swing voters.” Republicans know their job is to activate the conservative part of the brains of the biconceptuals, and they do that by sticking strictly to conservative moral principles and a clear conservative strategy. They never make the mistake of ignoring biconceptuals…. Read the entire post over at Alternet.
elephant George Lakoff is the author of Don’t Think of an Elephant.

Romney, Ryan and the Devil’s Budget: Will America Keep Its Soul?

America was born with a great soul, a moral view of Democracy in which citizens care about their fellow citizens and join together to take responsibility not just for themselves but for each other, for America as a union, a joint enterprise. The government’s job was to carry out that moral vision and to do […] Read More..

The Public: Obama’s and Romney’s Opposed Visions for a Free America

America is divided about its future. Should it keep and expand the system that brought past opportunity, prosperity and freedom? Or should it dismantle that system? President Obama recently reminded us that private life, private enterprise, and personal freedom depend on what the public provides. “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research […] Read More..

The Sacredness of Life and Liberty

The New York Times, on June 5, 2012, reported that so-called “morning-after pills” work by preventing women’s eggs from being fertilized, and not by preventing fertilized eggs from being implanted in the womb. The latest scientific findings show that “the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, […] Read More..

Appreciating Undocumented Americans

Last week on Independence Day, President Obama greeted new US citizens at the White House, taking the opportunity to speak once more about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, “We have to remain a nation of immigrants. And that’s why (…) we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to […] Read More..

How Occupy Wall Street’s Moral Vision Can Beat the Disastrous Conservative Worldview

OWS has a progressive moral vision. They’re protesting the disastrous effects that have come from operating with a conservative moral, economic, and political worldview. October 20, 2011 | I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far, […] Read More..